United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis, United States District Judge.
in this action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is a
motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Alex Miranda, Travis
Boggs, Charles Lieblich, and Rory Sugrue, and Montgomery
County. See ECF No. 26. The issues are fully
briefed, and a hearing was held on August 29, 2017.
See ECF No. 40. For the reasons stated below,
Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in part and
denied in part.
17, 2015, at approximately 11:30 p.m., Plaintiff Johana
Abrego called 911 to report that her son, Jospeh Abrego
(“Abrego”), was burglarizing her home in Silver
Spring, Maryland. Ms. Abrego's other son, sixteen year
old Plaintiff J.A., lived with his mother and was home at the
time. Unredacted Compl., ECF No. 9-1 at 4. Officers Alex
Miranda, Travis Boggs, Charles Lieblich, Rory Sugrue
(“Defendant Officers”) arrived around 11:45 p.m.
and arrested Joseph Abrego. Joseph was injured during the
arrest but is not a party to this suit. Id. at 4-5.
the officers were arresting Joseph, J.A. was in the living
room video recording the incident on his cell phone. J.A. was
unarmed and at no point did he threaten the Defendant
Officers. Id. at 5-6. While Officer Miranda was
walking Joseph out of the home in handcuffs, Miranda shoved
J.A. who fell onto the couch and lost control of his cell
phone. Id. at 6. Officer Miranda then grabbed
J.A.'s arm and pinned him in a seated position on the
couch. Id. at 6. Almost immediately thereafter,
Officer Boggs wrestled J.A. to the ground and handcuffed him.
Within several seconds, one or more of the officers hit and
kicked J.A. in the face and/or mouth. Id. at 7.
Because he was being beaten, J.A. could not specifically
identify by name each particular Officer who kicked or
punched him. See ECF No. 30 at 17. Defendant
Officers then placed a bag over J.A.'s head and zip-tied
the bag around his neck. The Defendant Officers then
transported J.A. to the Montgomery County police station. ECF
No. 9-1 at 8. On the way to the station, J.A. found it hard
to breathe not only because of the bag over his head, but
because blood continued to pool in his mouth from the beating
he had received. Id.
evening, the Officers charged J.A. with the criminal offenses
of obstructing and hindering and two counts of second-degree
assault. Id. at 9. The following morning, J.A. was
released to his mother. Ten days later, all charges against
J.A. were dropped. Id.
preventing him from recording his brother's arrest, J.A.
alleges that the Defendant Officers failed to follow a
written Montgomery County Police Department
(“MCPD”) Policy on Citizen Videotaping
interactions, FC No. 1142, dated January 1, 2013.
Id. at 11. The Policy provides, in pertinent part:
Individuals have a right to record police officers in the
public discharge of their duties. The right to record is not
limited to streets/sidewalks and includes areas where
individuals have a legal right to be present. Examples of
places where individuals have a legal right to be present
include, but are not limited to: an individual's home,
business, or any other property where the person has a right
to be present.
Id. Ms. Abrego subsequently filed a complaint with
the Montgomery County Police Department's Internal
Affairs Division (“IAD”) which prompted a brief
internal investigation. J.A. characterizes the investigation
has “perfunctory and inadequate.” Id. at
12. Despite claiming to have closely examined all pertinent
information, IAD did not attempt to interview key witnesses
or gather key pieces of information. Specifically, IAD did
not make any contact with two non-officer witnesses to the
events: Joseph Abrego and another minor child who was also
present. Id. IAD also did not request the video
recording made by J.A., despite being told of its existence.
Ultimately, IAD concluded that Defendants had committed no
wrongdoing. Id. at 11. J.A. also alleges that the
Defendant Officers' conduct stemmed from a Montgomery
County Police Department pattern or practice of indifference
toward individual's rights based upon “numerous
recorded and unrecorded complaints of police interference
and/or obstruction of citizen recording through intimidation
or force.” Id. at 12.
result of the beating, J.A. sustained at least two broken
teeth, four loose teeth, a lacerated lip, a concussion, a cut
to the back of his head, and bruising on his neck and wrists.
Id. at 9. J.A. required significant dental work,
some of which he is still unable to afford. Id. at
9-10. Due to his injuries, J.A. has not been able to play
soccer and his grades have suffered, hurting his college
prospects. Id. at 10. J.A. also sustained emotional
and psychological injuries as a consequence of the beating.
Abrego thereafter filed the instant suit on behalf of her
minor son, J.A. (hereinafter “Plaintiffs”)
against Alex Miranda, Travis Boggs, Charles Lieblich, Rory
Sugrue, and Montgomery County, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for violations of J.A.'s constitutional
rights. Specifically, Count I alleges unreasonable
seizure against Miranda only; Count II alleges excessive
force against all officers and Count III alleges unlawful
arrest against all individual officers; Count IV alleges
violations of J.A.'s First Amendment freedom of speech
against all officers as well as Montgomery County. On January
30, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss Counts II through V of
the Complaint on several grounds. The Court will address each
argument in turn.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
ruling on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must
“accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as
true” and “construe the facts and reasonable
inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff.” Ibarra v. United States, 120
F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). “Even though the
requirements for pleading a proper complaint are
substantially aimed at assuring that the defendant be given
adequate notice of the nature of a claim being made against
him, they also provide criteria for defining issues for trial
and for early disposition of inappropriate complaints.”
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir.
2009). “The mere recital of elements of a cause of
action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not
sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6).” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435,
439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the
factual allegations of a complaint “must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations
satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need not
‘forecast' evidence sufficient to prove the
elements of the claim. However, the complaint must allege
sufficient facts to establish those 10-CV-2851 AW, 2011 WL
4501372, at *3 (D. Md. Sept. 27, 2011) (explaining that under
Maryland law, police departments are agents of the county and
therefore cannot be sued as a separate entity).
elements.” Walters, 684 F.3d at 439 (citation
omitted). “Thus, while a plaintiff does not need to
demonstrate in a complaint that the right to relief is
‘probable, ' the complaint must advance the
plaintiff's claim ‘across the line from conceivable
to plausible.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).